Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2011
Regional Report

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Lush, yellow-tan alstroemeria is one among many colors in my spring garden.

Glorious Spring Color

Spring color has definitely sprung in my garden -- roses, bearded and Louisiana irises, brugsmansia, bromeliads, cistus (rockrose) and especially alstroemerias and sweet peas in great vigor are following the way-past-their-prime freesias,daffodils and paperwhites. My species poinsettia is beautiful, with outer and inner -- almost double-looking -- bracts, although looking a bit scrawny as its genetics declares. Camellias are still opening new blooms. The nasturtiums are still blooming in full force, providing 20-inch-deep living mulch for the whole garden. We'd ripped out all the vines covering the pathways to use as the first "green" in the compost pile. Even a couple of container epidendrum buds are forming, and lachenalia foliage hints at color to come.

I do love enjoying such vigor, especially recalling what little labor I did to achieve the glory -- just tons of mulch (with appreciative credit to the workers who actually schlep the one-ton pile of horse bedding up the steps to the hillside garden every third year). Of course, much of this year's glory goes to our wonderful rains, both in amount (22 inches) and timing (spread out every couple of weeks for several months).

Intriguing timing in Pasadena included some of the downpours coming when our city water system was being repaired and residents were basically forbidden to utilize outdoor watering -- although I wouldn't have used any anyway since the mulch and underlying soil were already thoroughly soaked.

Fruit tree set has also been glorious, with heavier blooming than I remember since the year we had 40 inches of rain, with lots of peaches and plums and nectarines, which I've been busily thinning, and teeny citrus peaking out from their dried-up blossoms. Thanks, bees!

Bumblebees are so fun to observe as they connect with a blossom and literally pull it down backwards as they search for the sweet niblet of nectar, and manage to also load up with pollen for their next landing.

Also "blooming" are the lettuce plants we've been eating from all winter, as well as the cauliflower. I've pulled most of the lettuce for the compost pile, keeping only the plants whose leaves are still palatable, and interplanting peppers, cucumbers, squash, and a batch of 'Four Seasons' lettuce seedlings that I hope will give us at least several salads before bolting. You never know what the weather will do, so I always plant both early and late, just in case the magic will work!

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